Love deserves better than the gutter. But there it was right in the filth of the streets. Last January, Sharon and I received invitations to attend the inauguration of the President of the United States. It was exciting to join the thousands who crowded the streets of the capital in order to get a glimpse of the country's new leader. The day was festive and the mood of the throng was upbeat.
Thousands attended the festivities for the sole purpose of pushing their own agendas, distributing their propaganda. However, most of this "free" material ended up in the gutter. Unfortunately, truth suffered the same fate.
Some discarded books caught my attention because the cover was colorful, attractive, and somewhat familiar. I looked closer in the gutter and discovered copies of The Great Controversy. Hundreds of copies of this deeply spiritual book had been tossed into the streets and trash bins.
As I contemplated this sad end to some group's well-intentioned initiative, I concluded that friends sometimes cause more damage to the gospel than enemies. I was dismayed to see this Christian classic end ing up as trash. Truth deserves better!
More recently, various billboard advertisements have appeared offering The Great Controversy to prove the pope's intentions to change America's constitution. This sensational promotion has caused ill-will among thousands of people and deeply divided Adventist churches between those who applaud such methods and those who are appalled. To me, however, the tragedy is greater than con fusion among our members. The proclamation of God's love deserves better than this kind of sensationalized commercialzation.
The Great Controversy provides pro found spiritual insights. Its analysis of the apostasy of the church during the dark ages is accurate. Adventists have always stood with the great reformers who saw the medieval church's falling away from truth as a historical fulfillment of Daniel 7, Revelation 13, and 2 Thessalonians 2. But this is not the primary message of the book. The primary theme of The Great Controversy is that despite all attacks upon God's truth and His character, love will ultimately triumph! Of course, the historical perspective demonstrates the folly of exalting traditions above Scripture or attempting to substitute ecclesiological mandates for the commands of God. But note the closing paragraph of the book: "The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. . . . From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love."' How do we appropriately present this message of love? I suggest the following.
Jesus is as interested in God's charac ter being properly represented as He is in facts being proclaimed. When His own disciples were ready to call fire down upon an unrepentant city, Jesus showed them the alternative of love. Yet in pro nouncing the curse upon the fig tree, He also showed the ultimate result of a nation rejecting God's love.
Truth demands dignity
No promotional efforts should stoop to cheap commercialism. The medium should match the message. It is unfortunate to see the triumph of God's love being hawked as if it were a tabloid. Advertising that misleads potential readers about the central theme of a book is deceptive to the public and unfair to the author.
Never excite prejudice
Carefully reasoned and historically accurate presentations will be far more persuasive than stirring up ill will or fostering prejudice. Bigotry is not only out of place, it is destructive to the very objectives of those who employ it. Notice the counsel of this very book: "The French Reformers... determined to strike a bold blow against the superstitions of Rome that should arouse the whole nation. Accordingly, placards attacking the mass were in one night posted all over France. Instead of advancing the reform, this zealous but ill-judged movement brought ruin, not only upon its propagators, but upon the friends of the reformed faith through out France." 2
Seize the initiative
Those who wish to see better methods must be at the forefront of utilizing acceptable alternatives. For example, my former congregation recently sent out invitations to friends in the community to request a complimentary copy of The Great Controversy. Adventists in Carolina sponsored radio and newspaper coupons for a free book. As a result 25,000 copies were hand-delivered along with an invitation to a seminar on last-day events. Read it for yourself
If you've never read this classic ac count of God moving through history for the benefit of humanity, you may also request a complimentary copy by writing Ministry. The book's theme of God's love triumphing over all challengers is a message you deserve to know and I would enjoy sending you a complimentary copy.
1 Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy
(Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn.
1911), p. 678.
2 Ibid., pp. 224, 225.